- South African government has run out of patience with days and weeks of strikes by the health workers. 13-year-old African National Congress government said it is now left with no option other than firing over 600 striking workers.
The strikes were responses to a deadlock between the government and unions over salary increase.
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the Public Services Minister said the striking workers had gone against the law because the recognition of the right to strike does not cover essential service workers. As a matter of fact, she said, the government was obliged to terminate the services of protesting health workers.
Consequently, protected striking workers would have their salaries slashed.
Union and government officials have held several meetings to agree on the issue but to all their efforts bore nought, as unions refused to accept the government’s earlier offer of 6.5% increase.
But as strikes intensified, with schools and public health facilities services hindered, the ANC government thought it wise to bring union to the table again. This too failed to end the deadlock, despite the government’s readiness to push salaries by 7.25%.
Unionists insisted that workers’ salaries must merge with the high inflation rates and day-to-day high living conditions. They vowed to accept only 12% increase.
Already, the government has deployed military officers to fill vacuums left by striking health workers in hospitals. However, the police were also asked to provide security for patients and other health workers who defied the strike from being attacked by their irate colleagues.
In some cases, police clashed with protesters resulting to injuries. A worried-looking family also reportedly had their vehicle’s windscreen damaged by the pelted stones of strikers. The family was unhurt but the incident had raised fears of increasing insecurity among South Africans.
The fire behind the strike, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), a major partner of the ANC government, has announced that unless a deal is forged, it would lead a strike that aims to shut down all the hospitals and schools in the country by Wednesday.
Cosatu has been on the throat of the government for not it’s very best to improve the living standards of the poor people.
The Public Services Minister said the real negotiations started on Friday and hoped they would finally douse the salary dispute to the ground. She saw no reason why the unions would not accept the government’s original offer which was increased by 44%.
For some days, unionists and government had been holding both close-door and public meetings on the pay dispute. But unionists insisted that until all their demands are met, the strikes would continue.
With only few months to choose a new leader to succeed President Thabo Mbeki, the ANC, Africa's oldest political party, had over the years been confronted with so many challenges, which according to political observers might endanger its power base.
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